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Healthy Animals
  • Dr. Stephen Thimmig is the warm hearted veterinarian at the Zeeb Pet Health Center in Dewitt, MI. Dr...

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Mon, April 1, 2013
An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure
Create a healthy, happy lifestyle for your canine friend
Having a stay-at-home dog does not guarantee your pet will not be exposed to disease and parasites. Indoor pets are exposed to various diseases, however, reasonable preventive measures and various treatment options can make a world of difference in your pet’s health.
Infectious Diseases
One of the most devastating diseases that infect dogs is Parvovirus. It causes intractable vomiting and hemorrhagic diarrhea. Viral particles remain in the environment long after the visible fecal material and vomit are gone. Later, any canine that frequents the area is exposed! Months later, if you walk in the area, viral particles can adhere to your shoes and clothing, when you return home unknowingly you may expose your pet to this highly infectious disease.
Immunization is the key to preventing this often fatal disease.
Leptospirosis, a disease that damages the liver and kidneys, is transmitted when an infected rodent’s urine is touched. Shortly after infection, patients become jaundice (turn yellow). Many go into kidney failure. In spite of intense medical treatment, death often is the outcome. Lepto organisms persist for an extended period in a warm, moist environment. Consequently, exposure may occur long after the urine was deposited.
Last summer, Leptospirosis was the disease that caused the demise of more than a dozen dogs in the greater Detroit area. These dogs were given a vaccine protecting them from Distemper, Hepatitis and Parvovirus for three years, but only one year for Leptospirosis and Parainfluenza. Their guardians failed to have the Leptospirosis and Parainfluenza booster shots given in a timely manner.

Both Leptospirosis and Parvovirus are easily prevented with appropriately given immunizations.
One final note: Leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease, meaning people can be infected via contact with an infected dog’s or rodent’s urine. Not to worry, washing your hands with soap will kill the Leptospira organisms.
Dogs contract kennel cough by direct contact or making contact with a surface contaminated by an infected dog’s nasal discharge. Grooming and boarding facilities, dog shows, training classes and pet walking trails are all common areas where dogs are exposed to this disease. Once again, vaccinating your pet against kennel cough is an excellent way to prevent this disease.
The most noteworthy disease of all is rabies. State law requires ALL dogs older than 3 months to be licensed. To obtain a license, they must have a current Rabies vaccine. Most Michigan counties offer a discounted three-year license if your pet’s rabies vaccine is good for the entire period. Licensing discounts also can be offered for spayed and neutered pets because they tend to cause fewer problems.
In mid-Michigan, the two most common intestinal parasites of dogs we see are roundworms (Ascrids) and hookworms (Strongyles). Both have a direct lifecycle, meaning that once the larvae emerge from the hatched egg, they are immediately infective.
In the case of roundworm eggs, although some hatch and immediately infect the next host, others will persist for more than a year. Once they enter a dog, they have a complex migratory route that takes them through the liver and lungs before they setup housekeeping in the GI tract.
Additionally, some of the roundworm larvae migrate to the host’s breast tissue. There they form little cysts and sit in a state of suspended animation. Many months or years later, the stress of birthing triggers their release. The larvae enter the female dog’s milk and infect her nursing puppies.
Both roundworms and hookworms can infect people. Migrating roundworms in humans can be devastating. The Center for Disease Control estimates 10,000 Americans have their vision damaged by migrating Roundworm larvae each year. So, once again, wash your hands!
Heartworms cause serious damage to the heart, lungs, and liver. This is a totally preventable disease. As the name implies, these long, thin worms primarily reside in the heart where they block the blood flow into the lungs. As a result, the heart must work harder, causing elevated blood pressure and eventual heart failure. Detection methods for heartworms have advanced to the point where we now have a test that can find a single adult worm!
Heartworm prevention is simple. Monthly oral and topical medications are available for dogs of any age. For healthy dogs ages six months to seven years and weighing more than 10 pounds, there is an injection that lasts six months. It also effectively eliminates and prevents hookworm infections. Talk to your veterinarian about which preventive program is best for you and your canine companion.
Oh, those pesky little fleas. With her sixteen ovaries, the female flea makes 20 to 50 eggs a day! In her lifetime, she will produce about 2,000 eggs. Under optimal conditions, it takes fleas a mere 15 days to go from egg to egg-laying adult. However, with various delays, it can take more than a year.
Indoor pets are not protected from a flea infestation. Although the risk is less, there remains a chance for fleas to come into your house from your yard or they may come in on a human or pet visitor.
Those who are exceedingly allergic to flea bites will scratch themselves to the point of becoming bald after but a single bite. Conversely, non-allergic pets can have hundreds of fleas crawling all over them and not have a hair out of place.
Note: Just because they are not itching today does not mean that they won’t develop an allergy and scratch for all they are worth sometime in the future.
I recommend that you start your pet on a flea control program before things get out of hand. A myriad of flea control products are available, however, some are not so safe or effective. Talk to your veterinarian about what products will work best for your pet. They have the knowledge, expertise, and product selection to safely and effectively stop fleas before the population explodes.
Other concerns
Until recently, lyme disease was only found in the one county in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. This is no longer the case. It is spread through the bite of a certain kind of tick. So, wherever this type of tick is found, there is the potential for lyme disease to be transmitted.
Right now, prevention of lyme disease in dogs comes in the form of tick control products or an immunization. Please consult your veterinarian to identify how best to protect your pet from this emerging disease.
One Final Word
One of the most important preventive healthcare measures you can provide for your canine companion is an Annual Comprehensive Physical Examination. The goal is to identify situations and conditions before they become catastrophic.
Preventive measures can be instituted that halt or minimize damage. Trained professionals are often able to detect problems early on when treatment options are abundant and the issues can be dealt with before they become life threatening.
Here are your take-home message: License your dog: it’s the law. Take your dog to a veterinarian each year for a comprehensive physical. Vaccinate your dog against the diseases mentioned in this article.  Keep your dog on heartworm preventive. Use safe, reliable flea & tick products. Keep your dog free of intestinal worms. Feed your dog a good quality pet food that is life-stage appropriate.
In return, you can expect a happier, healthier companion cable of giving you and your family copious amounts of love and attention for decades!

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